Amid the current turmoil of the latest scandal involving the University of Louisville basketball program, interim President Greg Postel shared much more promising news at the UofL board of trustees meeting on Monday, announcing that the accrediting agency that had placed the university on probation last December had cleared the school on seven of nine possible violations of its principles.
As Postel explained to the board on Monday, accrediting agency SACS placed UofL on probation in December due to the actions of Gov. Matt Bevin in the summer of 2016, when he signed executive orders abolishing and replacing its board of trustees, saying this political “undue influence” violated four SACS principles.
The agency later tacked on five additional possible violations of its principles, mostly related to the actions of the turbulent UofL Foundation, but also dealing with the large number of high-level administrative positions that are filled on an interim basis.
A special committee from SACS visited the UofL campus in mid-September to meet with Postel’s administration and the trustees to gauge the school’s progress in coming back into compliance, and the draft report on that visit found UofL to have already met or surpassed seven of the nine principles at issue. The SACS report also commended the cooperation shown by UofL officials, assessing the university as operating with integrity.
“Based on the extraordinary cooperation that the institution showed during the committee’s visit and the interviews we conducted, the committee found that the U of L currently operates with integrity,” states the draft report of SACS.
The report found the four initial violations that caused UofL to be placed on probation had been taken care of, largely due to legislation passed by the Kentucky General Assembly in the last session that abolished and replaced the board of trustees once again, mimicking Bevin’s order, but this time following the law.
The only two issues remaining for UofL within the SACS report regard the UofL Real Estate Foundation (ULREF) and the large number of interim positions in the president’s administration. The report recommended that UofL sign a memorandum of understanding to clarify its relationship with ULREF, and work quickly to permanently fill the many interim positions to ensure that qualified professionals are in those important roles.
The SACS report notes that “nine of the 12 senior-level positions with in the Office of the President” — including the president, himself — are interim appointments, and that “it is in the fiscal interest of the university to address the need for permanent leadership quickly.” While noting that the board of trustees has begun its formal search for a new president and CFO, the report added that “it is unclear how other positions will be staffed permanently in a timely way, or whether the fact that so much of the leadership is interim will impact the depth of a search pool for the Presidency.”
While UofL has stated that those holding interim positions are properly qualified, the SACS report noted that in some cases, “two positions, each of which is a robust full-time commitment, are being held by the same person — a key example being the Presidency. Moreover, in some cases, the qualifications of the persons who hold the appointment may not adequately prepare them for the position which they currently hold.”
The report formally recommends that UofL provide further evidence that it has “qualified administrative and academic officers with the experience and competence to lead the institution,” but took special note to commend the progress that Postel had made at UofL.
“Although the Special Committee is making a recommendation related to Comprehensive Standard 3.2.8 (qualified administrative and academic officers), we wish to acknowledge that Interim President Postel has made significant progress since assuming the interim presidency and appears poised to make additional meaningful progress in the near future,” states the draft report of SACS. “We also acknowledge that U of L has several searches underway to fill positions that are currently filled on an interim basis, including the presidency.”
UofL must now respond to the draft report of SACS by early November, and the accrediting agency will rule on the university’s probationary status at its meeting in early December.
At the trustees’ meeting on Monday, Postel commended the efforts of his staff and compliance officer Connie Shumake on their efforts to bring the university into compliance and demonstrate that to the special committee of SACS, saying he’s “proud that we had responded as vigorously and promptly as we had to those issues.”